Last March, we reported that state auditors were in the final stages of the first full review of Erie Community College’s finances in 20 years, reportedly sparked by complaints of lax controls in managing taxpayer and student dollars at ECC. The audit had begun in October of 2014.
In that same story, we reported that a spokesman for State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli would not confirm the financial review had been sparked by complaints from local watchdogs, calling it “a standard audit” that was expected to be completed by early spring.
Early spring is in the rearview mirror and Thanksgiving is fast approaching and the results of that “standard audit” have still not been released. I asked a spokesman from the state comptroller’s office this week if this audit was setting a record for longevity and he could only chuckle.
Officially, the audit now could be released next month, according to DiNapoli’s office, but there is no guarantee at this time that it will be ready before the end of the year. The conclusion any fair observer can reasonably draw is that this audit turned out to be anything but “standard,” and as we reported several times state auditors had their hands full dealing with Kristin Klein Wheaton, ECC’s vice president for legal affairs and the top assistant to Jack Quinn, the $192,500 president of ECC.
We have written numerous stories about the college’s fiscal meltdown, fueled in part by declining enrollment and the county’s less than 26.7 percent financial subsidy required by state education law (it is currently at about 15 perecent). We have also written about the many complaints from administrators and others at ECC abut Quinn’s handling of the college’s fiscal affairs and the lack of oversight by the Board of Directors.
In fact, in recent days I have learned that the board is rubber stamping just about everything that Quinn and Wheaton put on the table, meaning there is no checks on the Quinn administration from the board of directors. There are several projects in the works at ECC, including construction of the $30 million STEM building at the North campus, but the board reportedly is letting Quinn call the shots, period.
If any light is to be shed on what’s been happening at ECC under Quinn’s leadership, it looks like it will come from state auditors although the credibility of an audit so long in the making could be suspect. It could be that Quinn’s team has taken serious issue with the audit’s finding and that could be the reason for the delay. Whatever the reason, we still don’t have the results of an audit of a school with serious financial troubles and another tuition hike likely. We’ll keep you posted.